Fire-safe celebrations: Ensure your holiday festivities don’t go up in flames

As the kitchen is working overtime preparing your family’s favourite dishes, the Christmas tree is trimmed and the house is all a-twinkle, the stage is set for the most memorable holiday season yet … just make sure it’s memorable for the right reasons.

The food, the tree, the lights … all these things that help create memories to last a lifetime also bring potential risks, particularly from fire. The Canadian Red Cross notes that home fires are most common between December and March: “In as little as 30 seconds, a small flame can grow into a dangerous fire. Within minutes, an entire home can be filled with black smoke and large flames.”

How to keep your home fire-safe this holiday season

The Tree: Start thinking about minimizing the fire risk from your Christmas tree before you even bring it home: If you’re buying a live tree, check for freshness by tapping it on the ground – watch for dropping needles, and check how easily the needles pull from the branch. “Dropping needles indicate a dry, highly flammable tree,” notes the Canada Safety Council.

If you’re opting for an artificial tree, ensure it’s ‘fire resistant.’

Once home, set up your tree away from fireplaces and heat sources, and because cut, fresh trees dry out quickly indoors, top up the water reservoir daily.

The Lights:

Ensure you’re using the right cords and lights for the job: keep indoor cords and lights indoors as they’re not designed to withstand the elements outside.

Don’t run extension cords under carpets, out windows or doorways where they could become pinched, don’t link multiple cords together and don’t overload electrical outlets, the Safety Council advises.

Inspect light strings and extension cords before use, discarding any that show signs of wear or damage.

Turn off the lights before leaving the house or heading to bed.

The Candles:

If using candles, burn them in proper holders, on sturdy surfaces away from children, pets, curtains and flammable materials – never use lighted candles on or near the tree. Always extinguish candles before leaving the room or going to sleep.

The Food:

At the holidays and year-round, never leave grilling, frying or broiling foods unattended – mishaps can happen quickly!

Keep cooking surfaces clutter-free, be aware of little helpers who pop into the kitchen unexpectedly to see what’s cooking. Hands reaching up to help can quickly topple hot pots and pans.

Your home:

Always have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on all levels of the home and test them regularly.

Be sure to have a fire extinguisher on hand – and know how to use it!

Never burn wrapping paper, boxes, cartons, or other types of packing in the fireplace – they burn too hot and too quickly.

In the event of a fire, call 9-1-1 to alert Wetaskiwin Fire Services.

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